Norwich School Blog

IWD22: Jess Harris, First Senior Girl

Today is #InternationalWomensDay and we are celebrating women across our community who have been a part of helping to #BreakTheBias by being some of Norwich School's 'firsts'. We caught up with Jess Harris, now a teacher at Notre Dame Prep School, but Norwich School's first 'Senior Girl' in 2008 (the point at which Norwich School became fully co-educational across the years):

Tell us a bit about your role in our School community?

I came to Norwich School when only the Sixth Form was co-educational. In my Upper Sixth year I was appointed Senior Girl. This was a particularly crucial role this year, because it was the first year younger girls were going to be introduced throughout the school. Mrs Hill and I designed the girl’s uniform, organised events and a mentoring scheme to support the transition. These years were by far my favourite, and gave me confidence in my leadership and capabilities beyond the classroom!

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope Norwich School continues to thrive and support pupils from all backgrounds and genders. I am so encouraged by the Head of School often being female. For myself, I hope to continue my love of Education and teaching young minds as a Primary School teacher. I have loved my additional roles of House Mistress, and SENCo – allowing me to get to know other children across the school, playing a pastoral role. I am always keen to give children equal opportunities to thrive and reach their full potential. One day, I would love to be part of Senior Management, helping within the organisation of schools, and leading others with a mutual passion for inspiring our future leaders!

Are there any inspirational female figures you particularly look up to and why?

This was tricky – which delights me – there are too many to choose from! Firstly, I would start with my mum. She is the kindest, strongest, bravest woman I know. She continues to work in a school despite retiring, because she loves it. She puts everyone before herself and will do anything for her babies! (even if they are all in their 30s/40s). Beyond that, I talk to my class a lot about Malala Yousafzai, and her passion for females to be educated in the face of threats and adversity.

Why do you think International Women’s Day is important?

The meaning of International Women’s Day has certainly changed over the years for me. From a day to promote equality and the history of pioneering women, to a day I now seen in a different light. A day, where we can celebrate the incredible women of everyday, doing amazingly well in difficult circumstances. Outdating the view, ‘but she did it as a woman, hasn’t she done well..?’ to ‘she did it, and just so happens to be a woman.’ I think it is hugely important to recognise the incredible women from all around the world, both those who have made huge efforts and sacrifices for our own greater good, but also those women who are surviving everyday in a world which is not easy for anyone, anywhere.

What are you most proud of?

I often tell people when they ask me this, that within my own life, being Senior Girl at Norwich School was my most proud moment. It was a huge turning point in my school life, where I was recognised by others who believed in me, which helped me to believe more in myself for the first time. I am always proud at the end of every academic year of the class I have helped, certain individuals who I have impacted both academically but more importantly emotionally. Not much compares to connecting with a child, listening to them and making them feel heard.

What one piece of advice would you give to our female pupils?

Make the most of every moment. Allow yourself to try new things whilst they are all available to you. Believe it or not, teachers are there to help you, and provide you with all the opportunities you deserve. School is far more than academic outcomes, get involved and find out what your passions are. Don’t impose boundaries on yourself, be kind to yourself but do something every term which scares you!